Valentine’s Day is a day for flowers, but who says it has to be limited to cut flowers? Mid-February is a great time to plan for spring and summer gardens — if for no other reason than to do psychological combat against the cold, nasty, foggy weather we’ve endured.
Gardens mean warmth and sunshine, beautiful colors and good eating. What better thing can we plan for?
Some gardeners already know what they are going to plant — whatever is on sale in April and May. Others will plant what they always plant. The old triedand- true varieties suit them fine, but some will be a little more adventuresome and try something new. By its nature, it may not qualify as a fast-paced, rip-roaring adventure, but growing a new plant variety is a venture into new territory just the same.
More people should join in. It is true that using the time and effort to plant a yet-unknown variety could be a disappointment. It is true that you will put in as much time, effort, and money on an unknown plant that may not grow well in Tooele County as you would on something you know you can count on.
On the other hand, it is also true that there are some really good new plant varieties out there and you just need to find them.
Perhaps the best option is to find a middle ground. Plant some of the old favorites and try something new as well. Some of the new varieties are also tried-andtrue, albeit not yet tried by you.
I am talking about All-America Selections plant varieties. To qualify for this designation, these plants are tested using a network of 70 judges in more than 40 trial grounds across North America to rate entries against two or three similar varieties currently on the market. What it boils down to is these are plants that grew well in a wide range of climate and soil conditions, looked and produced better, and were more disease resistant than what was already considered the best of their type on the market. In essence, to qualify, the plants must get better and better.
The companies that have developed the winning plants are required to have enough seed to sell immediately nationwide so that the plants are readily available to consumers. You should be able to find these seeds and young transplantable plants in lawn and garden retail stores for this spring.
This year’s winners include three vegetables and five flowers. Today’s article will introduce the five AAS flower winners and next week’s article will introduce the vegetables.
Canna ‘South Pacific Scarlet’ F1 I like the name of the new Canna for 2013: South Pacific Scarlet. It seems fitting somehow since cannas look somewhat tropical to begin with. It’s kind of nice to grow something that looks tropical in our four-season desert environment. South Pacific has 4-inch scarlet flowers that bloom through the summer.
These cannas are not shy flowers. They grow up 4 to 5 feet tall and bloom profusely on a six or seven flower spikes per plant held above the large green leaves of the plants. Plant them in clusters in a full sun area and they will make great grouping behind the rest of the garden bed.
These F1 hybrids are seed cannas, but are more vigorous and sturdy than other seed propagated cannas and they bloom all season long. Like other cannas they produce rhizomes, which can be dug before freezing and stored properly for the next season.
Despite its tropical demeanor, South Pacific tolerates a light frost better than others it was compared with. Like other cannas, ‘South Pacific’ tolerates wet conditions so it can be used as a pond border or in other similar growing conditions.
The plant grows 12 to 18 inches across, so leave plenty of space for them in a spot that gets full sun all day. If you want to grow yours from seed, you may want to start them indoors very soon. They require 11 to 12 weeks between sowing seeds and flowering.
Echinacea ‘Cheyenne Spirit’
This Echinacea hearkens to the colorful headdresses of the Native Americans of the Great Plains because it produces a mixture of daisy-type flowers that vary from vivid purple, pink, red and orange tones to lighter creams, white and yellows — all on the same tough plant.
Like other Echinacea varieties, it should do well here. It doesn’t require a lot of water and is hardy through the winter months. Unlike many other Echinacea, Cheyenne blooms the first summer after it is seeded. You can expect blooms from mid-summer through fall and you don’t need to deadhead for it to continue blooming all summer long.
Butterflies are attracted to these plants so if you love butterflies, you’ll love Cheyenne. Use it in butterfly gardens, perennial borders and as cut flowers.
The AAS judges and their trial garden visitors raved about the plant. Besides lovely flowers in an array of shades, wind and rain storms didn’t topple this plant like they do many other Echinacea.
Plants grow best in full sun. Space these plants about 2 feet apart to accommodate the 25 to 30 inch mature width. They will grow 26 to 32 inches tall.
You should be able to purchase small plants to transplant or start your own from seed now. Allow 23 to 24 weeks from sowing seed to producing flowers.
Geranium ‘Pinto Premium White to Rose’ F1
Geranium ‘Pinto Premium White to Rose’ F1 is a Bedding Plant Award Winner.
The name ‘White to Rose’ gives a hint of what you can expect from the long-lasting, 5-inch blooms of these plants. The petals of the 5-inch blooms start out white then deepen to a rose-pink as the flowers mature and the flowers are long-lasting. The plants are dense and well-branched with deep green leaves and darker zones to provide a contrasting background to the light colored flowers. This plant lends itself to carefree, colorful garden beds or patio containers.
Place this annual plant in full sun about 12 to 18 inches apart. Apply water as the soil dries out. Plant 12 to 18 inches apart in well-drained soil after the last frost date — usually around May 5 to 10. The plant should grow 10 to 24 inches tall. No deadheading is recommended and staking is not necessary. Regular fertilizing is advisable through the summer to keep the plants blooming.
Zinnia ‘Profusion Double Deep Salmon’
The profusion series of zinnias have been favorites for a number of years and two additional plants have been added to the family — and to the AAS winners circle for 2013. The ‘Double Deep Salmon’ was chosen as an AAS 2013 Bedding Plant Award Winner.
The plant produces an abundance of 2.5- to 3-inch deep salmon double flowers that cover the plant. The salmon color doesn’t fade as the season wears on and it continues later into the season than the comparisons.
Bright foliage covers spent blossoms so deadheading is not necessary. These are relatively low-growing plants — about 8 to 14 inches tall and 24 inches wide. In our northern climate with a shorter growing season they may not grow quite as large.
Start them indoors or purchase transplants. Plant them outdoors in full to partial sun about 24 inches apart. They will make good container plants, low edgings or as a medium divider plant. Zinnias as a group are notorious for susceptibility to powdery mildew. But these are resistant to that white moldy powder that tends to cover the plants late in the season. Cool temperatures accompanied by rain may still induce these problems late in the fall season. It grows in a range of climates and is also resistant to drought, heat, rain and wind.
Zinnia ‘Profusion Double Hot Cherry’
The ‘Double Hot Cherry’ is the other 2013 AAS Bedding Plant Award Winner. Similar to the double deep salmon, Double Hot Cherry provides an abundance of 2.5- to 3-inch flowers, but in deep rose tones. They bloom non-stop to form well-mounded plants from late spring through fall. Plants are 8 to 14 inches tall and are also resistant to powdery mildew.
Size, care and disease tolerance are the same as the Profusion Double Deep Salmon.